February 15, 2011 12:10 am
SMCM Students Perform “Monologues”
Every year around this time, women from across around the world unite in giving voice to a subject not often touched upon in “polite” conversation: their vaginas.
St. Mary’s students, as part of this “V-Day” movement, were not vague in validating their relationships with their vaginas with a vivacious and vibrant performance in this year’s version of the “Vagina Monologues.”
The V-Day movement, according to the official web site, occurs around Valentine’s Day and “generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sex slavery.”
This attention is usually generated through performances of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues”, which according to this year’s director Lisa Davidson consists of a group of monologues that tell stories that celebrate female sexuality and raise awareness of sexual violence against women.
The monologues, written by Ensler and based on interviews she conducted with women from all walks of life, consisted of questions such as “What would your vagina wear?” and “If your vagina could talk, what would it say?”
Performances consist primarily of monologues that are performed every year dealing with topics like pubic hair, sexual relationships, and birth; however, directors also add in two other monologues: one spotlight monologue and one which is chosen from a collection of monologues.
This year, the former was a memorial to Myriam Merlot, the woman who brought the “Vagina Monologues” to Haiti and died in the Haiti earthquake in 2010.
Davidson chose “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy,” a monologue from the perspective of transwomen, as this year’s special monologue.
She said that she chose it because she was upset with the fact that trans* people and men normally cannot perform in the play, and said, “[I] thought it was unfair that [Ensler] mandated what is and isn’t a female and what is female sexuality.”
Davidson also chose to stage this year’s monologues in a faux-protest atmosphere, complete with picket signs painted by the performers with messages like “I Love Vaginas!” and “United States of Vagina.”
The play began abruptly when the performers ran screaming through the aisles clutching their signs, jarring the audience out of their pre-play smalltalk and fitting with the protest theme.
To introduce the play, juniors Deanna Clements, Brianna Manente, and Jana Fronczek expressed their anger about the lack of talk about female sexuality and how they were “worried about how we didn’t think about vaginas.”
The other performers, surrounding the stage, cheered in approval as Manente mentioned all the different types of women interviewed for the monologues.
The play began proper with “Hair,” in which senior Nona Landis played a woman who was advised in couple’s counseling to give in to her husband’s demands to shave her pubic hair.
She said, “[after shaving], there was no protection, no fluff!” She added, “you have to love hair in order to love the vagina … you can’t just pick and choose the parts you like.”
Performances ran the gamut of emotions. Some, such as “Because He Liked To Look At It,” a woman’s take on a man who was particularly reverent of his partner’s vagina, and “Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” about a woman sex worker who exclusively catered to other women, elicited uproarious laughter from the crowd.
The latter in particular showed off the impressive vocal “moan range” of first-year Liz Porter. “My Angry Vagina,” performed with powerful vehemence from junior Ana Palomino, railed against things such as tampons, thongs, and the gynecologist’s “mean, cold duck lips”.
Other monologues were much more sobering. “My Vagina Was a Village,” performed by junior Karina Mandell, told the story of a Bosnian woman subject to sexual torture at a rape camp.
The audience and fellow performers fell silent as Mandell told how her vagina, once metaphorically described as a vibrant village, was no longer a place she could visit. “I do not touch it anymore, not now, not since.”
The monologues concluded with the special monologue, in which senior Tess Wier, juniors Allison Bailey and Jess O’Rear, sophomore Rose Weinschenk, and first-year Yna Davis stood up from their seats in the crowd and took turns telling the stories of transwomens who had experienced discrimination for their gender identity.
O’Rear, speaking in character, said, “They ‘assigned’ me a sex…it has nothing to do with who you are.” At the end of the monologue, the four performers embraced at the edge of the stage, followed by the rest of cast.
Student and faculty reactions to the performance were generally positive.
Professor of Psychology Jennifer Tickle said, “I thought it was well performed…and I think they did a very good job capturing the feelings people have about their vaginas.”
Junior Crystal Barnes said, “I like how they were very uninhibited. They just weren’t shy and didn’t hold back.”